Paula Deen and Serena: 2 of a Kind

Both celebrities need to get a clue about how hurtful words can be.

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I also want to extend an apology to the millions of sexual assault victims in America whose pain could have been compounded by my inappropriate remarks. Rape and all forms of sexual assault are completely unacceptable, no matter the circumstances. Sexual assault perpetrated against women and men is never acceptable and *never* the fault of the victim.

One would hope that the evolution of Williams' statements is sincere. That she actually sat down with someone from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network or someone from Men Can Stop Rape. That she educated herself beyond popular misinformation and truly learned something.

The same thing goes for embattled cook Paula Deen, who in sworn testimony during a court deposition admitted to using the n-word, possibly making insensitive racist jokes and absolutely having some weird Gone With the Wind wedding fantasy.

In several self-produced YouTube videos, Deen admitted to having made some mistakes in her life, offered her "sincerest apologies" to those she hurt and emphasized that "inappropriate and hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable." Coming to her defense, Deen's sons said, "Our mother is one of the most compassionate, good-hearted, empathetic people that you'd ever meet."

The thing is, both pictures painted of Deen could easily hang in the same house. She could be the sweetest and Southern-est jovial Mrs. Claus stereotype, quick to offer a needy fellow a free meal with a smile, and then use that same mouth to tell a racist joke. Just as Williams, arguably one of the most famous female athletes and role models to young girls currently competing, can accept her second French Open title en français and weeks later say something so hurtful about a young girl.

It isn't shocking for a celebrity to say something politically incorrect or downright ignorant or even dangerous. The familiar flowchart from screw-up to salvation always has an "I'm sorry" in there somewhere. But what would truly be surprising is if, after all the prerequisite groveling -- before fans, sponsors and TV networks -- they realized that there was a lot of growing left to do.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.